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President exercises Veto to Bill for Criminal Penalties for Violators of IP Law

The previous Legislative Period ended with the approval in Third Debate of a Bill whereby the Criminal, Commercial and Judicial Codes, as well as Laws 15 of 1994 and 35 of 1996, regarding industrial property rights, were to be modified.

This initiative to amend the Criminal Code goes in hand with the modernization the Republic of Panama has set forth for the regulation and registration of Industrial and Intellectual Property Rights in the country.

The President considered the partial veto of the aforementioned Bill by means of letter No. DP-MM-122-03 of August 4, 2003, stating the following reasons for her decision:

      1. Article 382 considers as a crime the conduct of a person that without authorization of the title holder of a patent manufactures imports or sells a product protected by a patent or uses it without permission to use the patented process.  The President considers that the crime punished in this article would be the lack of license.  If this article is approved as it is a person duly authorized to manufacture, import or sell a product, but does not have a license, may be subject to a criminal punishment for infringing an administrative process.

      2. Article 15, which modifies article 165 of Law 35 of 1996, provides for Criminal Circuit Judges to impose fines in the event any of the described penal conducts is incurred.  Notwithstanding the latter, fines are not a means of punishment in the criminal jurisdiction in Panama and this disposition cannot become effective until other modifications are made to the Criminal Code.

      3. The modification proposed to numeral 7 of article 1515 of the Commercial Code is considered to provide the registration of mortgages or loans in any language in Panama.  The Presidency considers that this may allow for an element of insecurity and instability in our registry system, which may affect negatively the value and commerce of ships of the Panamanian registry.  This provision difficult the execution of control measures, which are necessary to confront international crimes.  It is considered that this modification would limit the possibility of cooperation from the Public Registry of Panama with the security entities, as it would not understand all languages.

Also, due to the lack of understanding of other languages it would be difficult to understand the nature of the obligation and this is contrary to the rights of publicity and true registry of the Public Registry of Panama.

The main opposition to this modification comes from the Political Constitution which states in its article 7 that Spanish is the official language of the Republic of Panama.

      4. Finally, there is an mistake in numbering of article 2152 of the Judicial Code.  The article to be amended would be 2159 of said legal text.

These are the reasons that the President considered that the modifications to the Criminal Code were not to be approved.  These are all reasons of constitutional inconveniency and inexebility.  The Bill has been returned to the Legislative Assembly for reconsideration.

A new legislative period began September 1, 2003.  We will keep you informed of any new developments regarding this proposed bill.

Pardini & Associates has a complete IP Law team, prepared to assist in the protection and defense of IP rights in the Republic of Panama and the Central American region.

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